Dhammapada Verse 182
kiccham maccana jivitam
Verse 182: Hard to gain is birth as man; hard is the life of mortals; hard to
get is the opportunity of hearing the Ariya Dhamma (Teaching of the Buddhas);
hard it is for a Buddha to appear.
The Story of Erakapatta the Naga King
While residing near Baranasi the Buddha uttered Verse (182) of this book,
with reference to Erakapatta, a king of nagas (dragons).
Once there was a naga king by the name of Erakapatta. In one of his past
existences during the time of Kassapa Buddha he had been a bhikkhu for a long
time. Through worry (kukkucca) over a minor offence he had committed during that
time, he was reborn as a naga. As a naga, he waited for the appearance of a
Buddha. Erakapatta had a very beautiful daughter, and he made use of her as a
means of finding the Buddha. He made it known that whoever could answer her
questions could claim her for a wife. Twice every month, Erakapatta made her
dance in the open and sing out her questions. Many suitors came to answer her
questions hoping to claim her, but no one could give the correct answer.
One day, the Buddha saw a youth named Uttara in his vision. He also knew that
the youth would attain Sotapatti Fruition in connection with the questions put
by the daughter of Erakapatta the naga. By then the youth was already on his way
to see Erakapatta's daughter. The Buddha stopped him and taught him how to
answer the questions. While he was being taught, Uttara attained Sotapatti
Fruition. Now that Uttara had attained Sotapatti Fruition, he had no desire for
the naga princess. However, Uttara still went to answer the questions for the
benefit of numerous other beings.
The first four questions were:
1. Who is a ruler?
2. Is one who is overwhelmed by the mist of moral defilements to be called a
3. What ruler is free from moral defilements?
4. What sort of person is to be called a fool?
The answers to the above questions were:
1. He who controls the six senses is a ruler.
2. One who is overwhelmed by the mist of moral defilements is not to be called
a ruler; he who is free from craving is called a ruler.
3. The ruler who is free from craving is free from moral defilements.
4. A person who hankers after sensual pleasures is called a fool.
Having had the correct answers to the above, the naga princess sang out
questions regarding the floods (oghas) of sensual desire, of renewed existence,
of false doctrine and of ignorance, and how they could be overcome. Uttara
answered these questions as taught by the Buddha.
When Erakapatta heard these answers he knew that a Buddha had appeared in
this world. So he asked Uttara to take him to the Buddha. On seeing the Buddha,
Erakapatta related to the Buddha how he had been a bhikkhu during the time of
Kassapa Buddha, how he had accidentally caused a grass blade to be broken off
while travelling in a boat, and how he had worried over that little offence for
having failed to do the act of exoneration as prescribed, and finally how he was
reborn as a naga. After hearing him, the Buddha told him how difficult it was to
be born in the human world, and to be born during the appearance of the Buddhas
or during the time of their Teaching.
Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:
|Verse 182: Hard to gain is birth as man; hard is the
life of mortals; hard to get is the opportunity of hearing the Ariya
Dhamma (Teaching of the Buddhas); hard it is for a Buddha to appear.
The above discourse benefited numerous beings. Erakapatta being an animal
could not attain Sotapatti Fruition then and there.